Aren't They Beautiful?


Aren't They Beautiful?

Aren't they beautiful,
she said, with an edge,
because I hadn't commented
on these slender,
some would say splendid
purple things
we'd come upon. The foxglove,
she repeated, aren't they beautiful?

Foxglove, what a nice name,
I thought, I liked that name,
and told her so, but I was thinking
of conversation, the way beautiful
often puts an end to it.
And remembered as a child
those long drives in the country—
Look! a clearing. Look!
a swatch of wildflowers.

All the tedium of ahs and yeses,
all that piety before the perfect.

Beauty, for her, was a beginning,
an honest way in. I knew that,
yet still I wanted to say, Give me
what a troubled soul might see,
give me that kind of beautiful,
but heard the sanctimony in it,
told the truth instead, the truth
that also digs one's grave,
becomes its own epitaph.
Until you asked, I said,
I saw nothing, almost nothing.

Deprivation is the mother of beauty,
a wittier man might have declared,
pointing theatrically
to all this blinding abundance.
Or simply admitted he was a prisoner
of his prejudices, helplessly himself.

The foxglove were looking smug,
uncontestable. And there I was,
impatient, angling for an argument.
We were standing directly in front
of those tall, pendulous eye-catchers.
What do you see now? she asked,
you're staring right at them.

The lies of daylight, the failures of language,
God the vicious, hiding behind another veil.